Nine dead, 66 missing in Australia's 'tsunami' flood

Photo gallery: Death toll and missing count continue to rise 24 hours after flash flood hurled millions of gallons of water onto Queensland.

January 11, 2011 11:57
1 minute read.

Australian Flood 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Military helicopters searched Tuesday for scores of people missing after a tsunami-like wall of water ripped through an Australian valley, tossing cars like toys in the deadliest episode of a weeks long flood crisis.

At least nine people were killed and officials held grave fears for 66 others still missing almost 24 hours after the flash flood hurled untold millions of gallons of water down Queensland state's Lockyer Valley on Monday, state Premier Anna Bligh said.

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The valley funneled rain from a freak storm — forecasters estimated up to 6 inches (150 millimeters) fell in half an hour fell near Toowoomba city — into a stream that formed a path of destruction, lifting houses from foundations. The torrent slowed and spread out as it moved downstream toward the state capital of Brisbane, Australia's third-largest city with some 2 million people.

The violent surge near Toowoomba on Monday escalated Australia's flood crisis in Queensland state and brought the overall death toll to 19. Until then, the flooding had unfolded slowly as swollen rivers burst their banks and inundated towns while moving downstream toward the ocean.

Queensland has been in the grip of its worst flooding for more than two weeks, after tropical downpours across a vast area of the state covered an area the size of France and Germany combined. Entire towns have been swamped, more than 200,000 people affected, and coal and farming industries virtually shut down.

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